(part 2 in our series covering the CNBC Africa panel discussion on the importance of technology in improving food security in Africa)
Given that as much as 40 percent of agricultural output goes to waste in Africa due to inadequate transport and storage, the need for investment in science, technology and education is imperative.(1)
“We need to think of science and technology in a broad sense that encompasses everything from the use of enhanced seed varieties to the correct agronomic skills, access to finance and even something as simple as no-till farming techniques that help keep organic matter in the ground where it is needed,” said Paul E. Schickler, president of DuPont Pioneer during a panel discussion that aired on CNBC Africa on August 20. “The other crucial thing is to adapt global technology to local needs. Although science provides universal answers, solutions must be local so as to account for variations in climate, soils, cultural traditions and distribution infrastructure.”
Investing in South African Farmers
Pioneer has committed R20 million (South African Rand) over five years to assist smallholder farmer development in South Africa. In November 2012, Pioneer established a collaborative agreement with the Limpopo Department of Agriculture (LDA) to work together with rural communities and other stakeholders to develop programmes addressing the challenges faced by small-scale and developing farmers in order to increase their overall farm productivity, profitability and food security. Since the beginning of the collaboration, Pioneer has invested R500 000. Limpopo is a key province for agricultural development in South Africa and its provincial government is supporting several initiatives to foster food security and self-sufficiency among emerging farmers.
Schickler said that while new technology is typically embraced in telecommunications, transport and healthcare, it is often regarded with skepticism when applied to agriculture. The result is that many African nations find themselves perpetuating less productive farming techniques and missing out on opportunities to improve household and national food security.
Lindie Stroebel, manager for Economic Intelligence at Agribusiness Chamber, told the CNBC Africa panel that the failure to embrace technological advances in agriculture is one reason why African crop yields are significantly lower than those of advanced economies that have adopted new farming technologies. Although Africa has 35 million hectares (or 86 million acres) of land available for maize production, average grain yields on the continent are less than 2 tons per hectare, about one-third of what is achieved in other developing regions and only one-fifth of yields in developed countries.
(1) Source: Global Harvest Initiative Symposium, Capturing the Full Value of the Supply Chain: Reducing Postharvest Waste, September 2009.